Some background on the Catholic Church in Latin America
Traditionally, Church associated with upper classes, status quo
However, there is also a tradition of local priests identifying with their communities
Church plagued by limited staff in many places, esp. rural areas and shantytowns
Many people in rural areas, shantytowns, saw priests rarely
Men in particular rarely seen in church
Folk Catholicism often more important culturally than official Catholicism
By 20th century, facing multiple challenges
Coping with modern world
Rise of Marxism
Growth of Protestantism, esp. in Brazil
Some early attempt to meet these challenges
Rerum novarum - 1891 - Pope Leo XIII
Deplored materialism of capitalism, atheism of Marxism
Inspired many in lower clergy to begin seeking a Catholic position on modern social issues
Catholic Action - inspired by Rerum novarum
Widespread movement in entire Catholic world
Sought Catholic version of social reform
Politicized many people, increased importance of lay leadership in Church
Cursillo movement - gets to Latin America by 1955
Short retreats meant to get men involved in church, develop lay leaders
Introduced idea of "see, judge, act" (rooted in ideas of Thomas Aquinas)
Vatican II (1962-1965)
Called by Pope John XXIII
Encouraged Church to enter a dialogue with the world
Allowed for a greater role for laity in the church (symbolized by use of vernacular)
From the conclusions -- The greater part of the world is still suffering from so much poverty that it is as if Christ Himself were crying out in these poor to beg the charity of the disciples. Do not let men, then, be scandalized because some countries with a majority of citizens who are counted as Christians have an abundance of wealth, whereas others are deprived of the necessities of life and are tormented with hunger, disease, and every kind of misery. The spirit of poverty and charity are the glory and witness of the Church of Christ.
CELAM - Medellin, 1968
Council of Latin American Bishops meets to discuss meaning of Vatican II for Latin America
Because all liberation is an anticipation of the complete redemption of Christ, the Church in Latin America is particularly in favor of all educational efforts which tend to free our people . . . . A deafening cry pours from the throats of millions of men, asking their pastors for a liberation that reaches them from nowhere else.
The lack of socio-cultural integration, in the majority of our countries, has given rise to the superimposition of cultures.
For our authentic liberation, all of us need a profound conversion so that "the kingdom of justice, love and peace", might come to us. The origin of all disdain for mankind, of all injustice, should be sought in the internal imbalance of human liberty, which will always need to be rectified in history.
The Christian quest for justice is a demand arising from biblical teaching. All men are merely humble stewards of material goods. In the search for salvation we must avoid the dualism which separates temporal tasks from the work of sanctification. Although we are encompassed with imperfections, we are men of hope. We have faith that our love for Christ and our brethren will not only be the great force liberating us from injustice and oppression, but also the inspiration for social justice, under- stood as a whole of life and as an impulse toward the integral growth of our countries.
Our pastoral mission is essentially a service of encouraging and educating the conscience of believers, to help them to perceive the responsibilities of their faith in their personal life and in their social life.
The Latin American Church encourages the formation of national communities that reflect a global organization, where all of the peoples but more especially the lower classes have, by means of territorial and functional structures, an active and receptive, creative and decisive participation in the construction of a new society.
CELAM - Puebla - 1979
Under influence of more conservative Pope John Paul II, tones down some of Medellin
Still, maintains and expands on some of the social conclusions
We see the continuing operation of economic systems that do not regard the human being as the center of society, and that are not carrying out the profound changes needed to move toward a just society.
One of the serious consequences of the lack of integration among our nations is that we go before the world as small entities without any ability to push through negotiations in the concert of nations.
There is the fact of economic, technological, political, and cultural dependence; the presence of multinational conglomerates that often look after only their own interests at the expense of the welfare of the country that welcomes them in; and the drop in value of our raw materials as compared with the price of finished products we buy.
The arms race, the great crime of our time, is both the result and the cause of tensions between fellow countries. Because of it, enormous resources are being allotted for arms purchases instead of being employed to solve vital problems.
There is a lack of structural reforms in agriculture that adequately deal with specific realities and decisively attack the grave social and economic problems of the peasantry. Such problems include access to land and to resources that would enable them to improve their productivity and their marketing.
We see a crisis in moral values: public and private corruption; greed for exorbitant profit; venality; lack of real effort; the absence of any social sense of practical justice and solidarity; and the flight of capital resources and brain power. All these things prevent or undermine communion with God and brotherhood.
Finally, speaking as pastors and without trying to determine the technical character of these underlying roots, we ourselves see that at bottom there lies a mystery of sinfulness. This is evident when the human person, called to have dominion over the world, impregnates the mechanisms of society with materialistic values.
Endorsed idea of "preferential option for the poor"
What is it?
Term coined in 1968 by Gustavo Guttierez
First and foremost, it is theology
An attempt to "Latinamericanize" theology
Based on belief that theology must spring from the experience of the people and guide them toward liberation
A biblical and theological investigation of the idea of liberation
Theology springs from methodology
Praxis -- theology springs from action
Guttierez sees theology as coming from doing justice in the world
Conscientization - poor must be made aware of the roots of their poverty
See, judge, act
Description of Reality - analysis of Latin American society based on dependency theory and class analysis
Unity of History - spiritual world and material world not separate. Thus liberation must come in this world as well as the next
Political Activity - one must not only talk about justice, one must do justice
Conflict and change - assume that these, not status quo, are the norm
Preferential option for the poor
Liberation - real liberation happens now, in the world
Importance of material liberation
Goodness of Creation -- Humans are created in the likeness of God, thus God is found through humans, all humans worthy of dignity
Cain and Abel, not Eve and the apple, are the prototype of sin -- sin is doing injustice to another
Emphasis on Mathew 25 ("For I was hungry and you gave me food...") - Practical aid to neighbor as justification of good life.
God, Jesus, the prophets seen as proclaiming liberation from poverty, slavery, and oppression.
Base Ecclesiastical Communities - CEBs
Arose as a response to Vatican II's challenge for renewal
Also, came from local priests response to problem of too few resources, not enough priests
Study groups of laity
Often inspired by "see, judge, act" -- many taken on active social role in community
By 1908s, 70,000 in Brazil alone with 2.5 million members
Most important among poor -- become a catalyst for grass roots organization
Much of this lecture is derived from
Change: The Church in Latin America Today, by Edward L. Cleary.